What is sociology?
To understand the importance of sociology, one must first understand what sociology is, when and where it started and the reason behind its creation. Sociology is a science that studies human social life, groups and societies. One of its main purpose is to understand the direction of change, in other words the social development.
The discipline of sociology made its apparition in the middle of the 19th century when social observers began to use scientific ways to demonstrate their hypothesis and observations. There were three main major social changes that led to the development of sociology and these factors are:
1. Industrial revolution.
In the mid-19th century, Europe was undergoing a drastic change in terms of occupation and employment as masses of people migrated to cities in search of job. They left the countryside which had agriculture as main occupation, to look for jobs in the urban/ industrial places. This radical change from agriculture to factory production brought a metamorphosis in the peoples life as they had to endure horrible working condition but most important; they had to abandoned their ways of life and part of their culture which resulted in a loss in their social norms which was the cause of several social issues.
The Europeans’ territories were increasing across the world and thus they began to be exposed to different cultures. Stunned by the variation in the ways of life, the European’s curiosity about culture difference started to grow.
3. Success of natural science.
The use of systematic and objective observation to test theories in physics and chemistry has started to alter the world. The social observers started to wonder why not applying these method to find answers for the question being raised about the social world. Apparently, this idea of applying scientific method to the social world, termed as positivism was first put in practiced by Mr August Comte (1798- 1857).
August Comte, the father of sociology.
Auguste Comte was a French man who is known to be the father of sociology as he was the one who created the term ‘sociology’ itself and apparently he was also the first to apply the principle of positivism to study the social world.
Throughout the years, sociology suggested that human lives seem to follow certain pattern, thus sociology does not only find its essence in studying past or present events about the social world but helps in predicting social changes and their outcomes. This pattern resulted from the fact that human behaviour is strongly affected by the society, his/her social life and the social group he/she belongs to. This particular way of viewing the world is known as the sociological perspective.
THE IMPORTANCE OF STUDYING SOCIOLOGY
The sociological perspective
The sociological perspective are lenses that helps to understand human behaviour and somehow demonstrate the interrelated relationship between the individual and the social world. The primary principle of the sociological perspective is that the individual’s attitude and behaviour is shaped by the society though not determining all of them. The individual will always have freedom but that freedom will continuously be limited by the expectations of the society.
Consider the American presidential election of 2008 between Democrat Barrack Obama and Republican John McCain. Young people, aged between 18 and 24 years was most likely to vote for Barrack Obama than voting for John McCain with a ratio of 2:1. However a ratio of 1:2 of white men in the state of Wyoming preferred to vote for John McCain. This example perfectly illustrate how the human behaviour is affected by its social background such as ethnicity, gender and age.
By applying the sociological perspective it enables an individual to understand his/her own lives in terms of larger social forces. This concept given by C. Wright mills is termed as the sociological imagination. The sociological imagination can be compared to a mathematical formula that uses the social background as variables to sort out the various conditions that could be the cause of your social experienced, your life choices and your life chances. Therefore sociology enables an individual to understand his/her past and present situation to plan his future in the society.
How the sociological perspective helps in personal growth?
There are four ways in which the sociological perspective helps in personal growth;
1. The sociological perspective helps in assessing the truth of common sense.
It forces the individual to investigate whether common held belief are actually true or not and why they are so widely held. Consider for yourself: ethnic difference, social class difference, gender difference. Where do these difference originate? Questioning yourself helps in preventing any kind of assumptions.
2. The sociological perspective empowers us to participate actively in our society.
Knowing how the society operates gives you appropriate tools to overcome the status quo. The greater the knowledge the more active you are in shaping your social life as you know what to expect in life and how to overcome obstacles that may appear.
3. The sociological perspectives helps to perceive the opportunities and the constraints in our lives.
As the society is predictable, the sociological perspective may help to prepare for upcoming obstacle, e.g. through experience of other individuals of same social background. It helps in identifying your limits.
4. The sociological perspective helps in accepting human variety and confront the challenges of living in a diverse world.
We have the tendency to believe that our way of life is right, natural and better and others’ are not. This sociological perspective help us to think critically about weaknesses and strength in all ways of life, including our own.
It is impossible to understand and solve the various issues that are caused by the diversity of the society without the study of sociology. When sociologist was observing the social world to build their theories, they had to face two basic facts: What issues they should study? And how should they connect the facts? The steps used by the sociologist to answer these questions relied on their theoretical “road map” (guide) or paradigm.
Theoretical paradigm of sociology.
In sociology a few theories provide broad perspective that helps to explain several aspects of social life. These theories are so well known that they are considered as paradigm. These theoretical paradigm provides a basic image of society that guides thinking and research. For example
Three of these paradigm has influenced sociological thinking because they provide useful explanation.
1. Structural functionalism
2. Social conflict
3. Symbolic interaction